The government has moved to ‘Covid Plan B’: here’s what that means for you

Written by Amy Beecham

In a press conference last night, prime minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions to help curb the rising Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Last night at 6pm, prime minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation in a Downing Street press conference announcing stronger ‘Plan B’ measures in England to help reduce the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant amid rising cases.

Initial analysis suggests cases could be doubling every 2.5 to three days. Some 568 confirmed Omicron cases have so far been identified in the UK.  

On the spread of the virus, the prime minister said “It has become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, explained: “We are now facing a viral variant that is rapidly progressing and measures need to be taken to slow that.”

What does Covid Plan B mean?

As such, the prime minister announced that, from Monday, people must work from home where possible and that from Friday, face masks would be a legal requirement in most public indoor areas such as theatres and cinemas, with exemptions for eating and drinking in hospitality venues.

From Wednesday next week, vaccine passports available to the double-vaccinated on the NHS app will be necessary for those wanting to attend large, potentially crowded venues such as nightclubs.

Johnson and his key advisers also stressed the necessity of boosters to guard against Omicron, as over 21.3 million have now received their third jab in England.

Will there be another lockdown?

Ministers have repeatedly said there are no plans for another lockdown in England, with the prime minister telling the conference: “It’s not a lockdown, it’s Plan B”. Johnson also insisted that currently there was no need to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays, and nightclubs will remain open.

However, the government faced criticism for the timing of the announcements, on the same day that the prime minister’s aide Allegra Stratton resigned from her position after a leaked video showed her laughing and joking about an alleged Christmas party held in Downing Street on 18 December last year while the UK was in lockdown.

Reports of multiple events, including one held in a flat owned by the prime minister and his wife Carrie in November 2020, have emerged and been repeatedly denied by the prime minister’s spokespeople.

William Wragg, a Tory MP, accused the prime minister of a “diversionary tactic”, while Mark Harper, a former chief whip, questioned why anyone should “do things that people working in No 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do”.

The prime minister denied that the Plan B announcement was timed to divert attention from the Christmas party, saying the government did not want to delay bringing in the rules designed to protect public health.

Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, added that people do “get very angry when they feel the rules are unfair”, but that this needed to be separated from evidence that showed restrictions were necessary.

For official guidance on England’s full Covid-19 restrictions, please visit

Images: Getty

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